‘The Nature of the Beast’ by Louise Penny – A Return to Three Pines

‘The Nature of the Beast’ by Louise Penny    (2015) –   394 pages


Once again we are in the charming picturesque French-Canadian village of Three Pines in Quebec, just north of the Vermont border.  The locals are putting on an amateur play, “She Sat Down and Wept” which former Chief Inspector Gamache recognizes as the work of notorious imprisoned criminal John Fleming.

Meanwhile the dead body of a nine year-old boy from the village, Laurent, is discovered in the woods nearby.  Near the body, a huge artillery gun is found buried in the dense undergrowth.  Soon members of the Canadian intelligence service arrive as well as a mysterious professor from McGill University who knows a lot more about the gun than he admits.

The colorful town eccentrics at Three Pines do show up including Ruth Zardo and her pet duck Rosa as well as the two men who run the best bistro in the known world.   With the intelligence agents, the professor, the cast members and director of the play, the new Chief Inspector, and the townspeople, there is a large crew of characters in ‘The Nature of the Beast’, perhaps too many for a reader to keep track of easily.

This is the second Chief Inspector Gamache novel that I’ve read.  I thought that the first one, ‘How the Light Gets In’, transcended the mystery genre.  It was a gripping and engaging story of corruption in high places, an excellent novel regardless of the category.

However, ‘The Nature of the Beast’ has a contrived outlandish plot about Operation Babylon and gigantic missile launcher guns named Baby Babylon and Big Babylon.  Sadly I could never quite accept this plot with the big guns as believable.  Even though the plot is based in part on a real story, I found these monster guns quite incongruous with the small town life of Three Pines.  Things also get a bit too convoluted for my taste.

“The Nature of the Beast’ had more of the feel of an artificial mystery than of actual life.

This novel will probably appeal to fans of mysteries and fans of Louise Penny but probably will not have a wider appeal to readers seeking more literary fare.


Grade: B

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